The Denver Broncos enter the season as the favorite to win the Super Bowl. That seems a little foolish to me. The Broncos are a good team for sure, but are they better than last year's team? Are they better than Seattle, San Fran, Atlanta, New England or even the Ravens? Maybe they are favored because the NFC is a tougher playoff road to travel through. Time will tell, but here's a spoiler alert, the Broncos aren't winning the Super Bowl this year.
The 2012 team ranked 2nd in total defense. They lost Elvis Dumerville, Von Miller will miss the first 6 games, and in general their linebacking crew has had a large makeover since last season. And where exactly a pass rush is going to come from while waiting for Miller remains to be seen. The Broncos lead the league with 52 sacks last year, 29 1/2 coming from Von-Doom. I always say the greatest invention in history is the electric screwdriver. Why? Because it alleviates time and effort. I could have spent 2 hours trying to put in the screws to the steps for my pool into my pool deck this summer, arms and hands in agony, sweating like Tony Siragusa on the sidelines of a Dolphins game, but with the electric screwdriver I was done in 20 minutes. That's what a good pass rush is. It gets the defense off the field alleviating time and effort. Let's just say without Dumerville and Miller (for 6 games) Denver's defense could be screwed.
The secondary should be good, but the last time we saw Champ Bailey he was looking like a guy who now needed safety help on his side of the field. Dominique Rodgers Cromartie is a talent, but one who hasn't always lived up to the expectations.
On offense, Denver lost Willis McGahee, who was a solid runner, averaging 4.4 a carry, but also a veteran back who understood blocking schemes. They now have a Moreno-Ball-Hillman three-headed monster with Moreno being the most adept at protecting Peyton.
The biggest concern is the offensive line where everyone is either recovering from injury or a career backup.
The Welker pick up was huge and I loved the signing of Vaszquez. There is no reason to think this won't be a top 5 scoring offense (they were #2 in 2012). Oh, and there is Trindon Holliday who will probably return 4 or 5 kicks for scores this year.
If the line holds up there will be just one thing that will stop the offense this year... fumbles. In the preseason the Broncos offense lay the ball on the ground six times in their last three games. They lost 14 fumbles last year, the most of any team to make the playoffs. And we saw last year Holliday has a bad habit of doing it too. You can't ran a fast break offense standing on the sidelines.
So where does that leave the Broncos this year? As you may recall, last year I was all over the Broncos first 9 games, and then they won a few more than I thought and exceeded my expectations, going 13-3.
The 2013 season is upon us, so let's break it down.
WEEK 1 - BALTIMORE
The Flacco Flack over the banners around Denver and on the stadium has gotten a lot of buzz this week. But hey, NFL, why stop with just a few banners. Why not give the Ravens their rings too?? If we're going to do this, let's go all the way. Have Ray Lewis out there so he can dance up the field before getting his ring. Hell, raise the Super Bowl banner and then ship it back to Baltimore.
Why would Broncos fans mind? You've already decorated our town with Joe Flacco's mug, so let's have a party!
The Broncos ran 30 plays in the first quarter of their preseason game against the Rams. 30! If my math is correct.... (carry the 1...) that's 120 over 4 quarters. With a lot of new starters on defense, I'm not sure this is the offense the Ravens want to face (no, not the famed "Peyton Manning face") in week 1.
If the Ravens win the toss and receive, on the first play Rahim Moore should go stand on the Broncos goal line just to let Baltimore know he won't be beaten deep in this one.
While all eyes will be on Welker, and Eric Decker being the guy who torched Baltimore in the two games last year (14 - 217, 2 TDs) it's going to be Demaryius Thomas with the big game, grabbing 8 passes for 168 yards and 2 scores.
BRONCOS 27 RAVENS 21 (1-0)
WEEK 2 - AT GIANTS
Manning Bowl 3! On the "Bowl" spectrum it ranks a little higher than the Bud Bowl but not as good as the Puppy Bowl. The Mannings are rappers, SNL hosts, humble family men and prolific passers. This will be their third meeting with Peyton having won the first two. If you count their SNL appearances, Peyton is 3-0.
Week 2, 2006: Colts 26 Giants 21. Peyton 25-41, 276, TD, Int. Eli 20-34, 247, 2 TD, Int.
Week 2, 2010: Colts 38 Giants 14. Peyton 20-26, 255, 3 TD. Eli 13-24, 161, 2 TD, Int.
I'm a little brother. I grew up losing to my older brother all the time. You really can only take it so long. I think Eli has had enough. Eli is either going to win this game or he is going to throw Peyton's baseball glove in the pond near their house. (Something I may or may not have done to my brother).
Both brothers will play well, but Broncos turnovers will prove costly.
GIANTS 24 BRONCOS 17 (1-1)
WEEK 3 - RAIDERS
So week 1 is a big revenge game on national TV. Week 2 is the Manning Bowl on national TV (it'll be the big game on CBS around the country). Week 3 is Raider Week on Monday Night Football. Will the Broncos have any emotion left in the tank after these 3 games? The saving grace is after facing Flacco and Eli, Terrelle Pryor comes to town. Dennis Allen is going to stand on the Raiders sideline, look at Pryor and then look at Peyton and think, "I left Kate Upton for Amanda Bynes..."
This feels like a Trindon Game. He'll return a kick for a score and the Broncos high octane offense will have the Raiders reeling. Oakland's highlight will be when Sea-Bas kicks a record 65-yard field goal.
BRONCOS 42 RAIDERS 13 (2-1)
WEEK 4 EAGLES
Is the promotional give away for this game oxygen tanks?
After facing a Mike Vick wannabe, the Broncos face the real thing. This ought to be fun. This game is going to have so many plays Shakespeare would be jealous. They better have a lot of oxygen tanks on the sidelines. Hell, give them to the announcers too because they will be breathless trying to keep up. Halftime for this game may need to be 10 minutes longer than normal to allow the teams to catch their breath. The Detroit Pistons and Denver Nuggets played a game in Denver nearly 30 years ago where the final score was 186-184. This will be close.
BRONCOS 45 EAGLES 31 (3-1)
WEEK 5 AT COWBOYS
The last time the Broncos played the Cowboys, Kyle Orton threw touchdown passes for Denver and the Broncos won 17-10. Champ Bailey broke up four passes including one in the end zone late in the game to preserve the victory. If Kyle Orton throws two TDs for Denver in this game, it means Tony Romo is hurt and Champ Bailey did more than break up a pass, he took one or two to the house. It's more likely Orton will be holding his clipboard on the sidelines watching Romo have a big day.
Manning is a pedestrian 2-2 vs the Cowboys with 7 TDs and 7 picks.
The Cowboys make things difficult on Manning with a strong pass rush and the Romocoaster has an up week.
BRONCOS 14 COWBOYS 20 (3-2)
WEEK 6 JACKSONVILLE
In the wake of the Broncos playoff loss to the Ravens, fans and media alike debated if it was worse than the '96-'97 loss to the Jaguars. I'm not sure if 16 years from now when the Broncos and Ravens play I'll hope the Broncos annihilate them beyond recognition, but I still feel that way when Denver plays Jacksonville.
Did you know the Jags have beaten Denver three straight? Me neither until I looked it up.
Peyton brings back memories of the '97-'98 playoff game and Welker is huge with 10+ receptions.
BRONCOS 42 JAGUARS 17 (4-2)
WEEK 7 AT COLTS
Holy Schnikes, talk about your story lines. Von Miller returning to the Broncos will hardly be a rumor compared to the Peyton Manning Returns to Indy drama. Poor Andrew Luck is going to be answering questions about it all week. Peyton will be answering questions about it all week. Jim Irsay will be drunk tweeting about it all week. This game is going to be H-U-G-E. Last years Cowboys-Redskins game in week 17 did a 17.0 rating, the highest ever on NBC for a regular season game. This one will be close to that, probably around a 16.5.
We've seen this type of moment play out before. It's the Hell Hath No Fury Like a Woman Scorned Unless it's the Face of a Franchise Playing Against the Team That Let Him Go game. (It's a long title, I know.)
Brett Favre played the Packers twice in 2009, winning both games, including a 12-point win in Green Bay when he chucked 4 TD passes.
In 1994 Joe Montana faced the 49ers (in KC) and beat them 24-17 with two TDs.
It works in other sports too. Tom Seaver's first start at Shea Stadium against the Mets, he struck out 11 in a 5-1 win and also hit a double.
Roger Clemens gave the Fenway faithful (and the Red Sox brass) a big F you when he struck out 16 in 8 innings in his return to Boston. He only allowed 4 hits and a run in the victory for Toronto.
Even an aging Michael Jordan beat the Bulls the first two times he faced them (home and away) as a 38-year old who had been out of the league for 3 years. In his return to Chicago he only had 16 points but also had 12 rebounds and a +/- of +17.
So what does all this mean? It means Manning is going to be beyond fired up to stick it to the team that didn't believe he could still be a healthy, productive player. It means 4 TD passes and 321 yards. It means a Broncos victory.
BRONCOS 28 COLTS 21 (5-2)
WEEK 8 REDSKINS
Wait, there's ANOTHER emotional match up? OK, Mike Shanahan was never exactly Mr. Cuddles, but he is the coach that lead Denver to their only two titles. His return to Denver should elicit warm memories and plenty of praise for Shanny for the Super Bowls and getting rid of Greg Robinson. When all the hugging is done the business at hand will not be hugging, but wrapping up RG3 and not letting him run wild. Von Miller should have his feet under him for this one and will be fired up to play his first home game.
BRONCOS 30 REDSKINS 19 (6-2)
WEEK 9 BYE
WEEK 10 AT CHARGERS
Hey, another reunion! The Broncos face former offensive coordinator Mike McCoy who created an offense that was ranked 4th in total offense. Of course he did have help from Peyton. It's kind of like Anson Williams having "Star of Happy Days" on his resume.
For McCoy, it's the same resume that says "I won games, and a PLAYOFF GAME, with Tim Tebow as my quarterback."It also says "Kyle Orton had a career year playing under me." That's quite a resume.
So what can he do with Philip Rivers, a QB who needs more saving than Nelson Van Alden on Boardwalk Empire? Rivers had been 9-4 in his career against Denver before last year, which included the collapse game on MNF when they blew a 24-0 lead. The Chargers offense ranked 31st last year. Only Arizona was worse. I think McCoy will help Rivers be a better QB, just not good enough in this game.
BRONCOS 26 CHARGERS 16 (7-2)
WEEK 11 CHIEFS
Kansas City has become a popular sleeper pick this season. With an upgrade at QB and coach, the potent offensive combo of Jamal Charles and Dwayne Bowe and the likelihood that things just can't be that awful two years in a row, maybe those people are right. This game will go a long way toward telling us if the Chiefs are for real. It's also the first piece of bread in the Patriots sandwich as the Broncos play KC, NE and KC the next three weeks. Is this the dreaded look ahead loss?
BRONCOS 23 CHIEFS 13 (8-2)
WEEK 12 AT NEW ENGLAND
Hey! Yet another reunion!!! Even M*A*S*H didn't do this many reunion shows. So Wes Welker comes back to New England where he claims his coach was was tougher on him than HHH is on the Big Show. With some QBs you would expect Welker to be targeted many times, trying to help their man exact some revenge. Manning won't play it like that unless the game plan calls for it. Obviously every Broncos game plan will have a lot of Wes in it, but don't expect Manning to force stuff.
In last year's game the Patriots fast-paced offense had the Broncos defense on the ropes for three quarters. Ridley riddled them for 151 yards. New England ran 89 plays and jumped to a 31-7 lead. Denver had a chance, down 31-21 and driving when McGahee fumbled (Denver's third lost fumble of the game) and New England ran it out.
This will be an interesting chess match as both teams have last year to work from, plus their defenses practice against the uptempo offense every day. In the end, the difference will probably be the same as last year, turnovers.
PATRIOTS 34 BRONCOS 24 (8-3)
WEEK 13 AT KANSAS CITY
It's been three seasons since the Broncos have scored more than 17 points in K.C. That was when they put up 44 in 2009 behind 245 yards on the ground, lead by Correl Buckhalter's (!) 113.
I never feel good about games in K.C. It reminds of buying clothes for my wife for Christmas. It's going to be an uncomfortable, arduous, feature an embarrassing moment or two with the likelihood that it was just an exasperating waste of time.
CHIEFS 17 BRONCOS 16 (8-4)
WEEK 14 TITANS
Wait. I thought the Broncos bye was in week 9.
BRONCOS 38 TITANS 10 (9-4)
WEEK 15 CHARGERS
By this point in the season Philip Rivers will either be back to his old form or the Chargers will have signed Philip Seymour Hoffman because he can act like a QB better than Rivers can actually play like one. Don't laugh, the man gave life to Art Howe in Moneyball, so he can pretty much do anything.
With Antonio Gates on the down side of a great career, Denver's former hoopster turned football player, Julius Thomas, goes off with 3 TD receptions.
BRONCOS 27 CHARGERS 12 (10-4)
WEEK 16 AT HOUSTON
Hey, it's Gary Kubiak! OK, we did this reunion last year. Kubiak is now like the uncle who always stays at the family reunion longer than everyone else. This will be a good "getting ready for the playoffs" test. It may even be an important game for seeding in the playoffs. And as we learned last year, home field advantage is so.... AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! Just knock the damn ball down Rahim!!!!!! Knock the freakin' ball down!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
HOUSTON 28 DENVER 20 (10-5)
WEEK 17 AT OAKLAND
What are the odds that neither Terrelle Pryor nor Matt Flynn starts this game for Oakland? That would be a great office pool to do. Get 10 friends, do a random draw for draft order and let everyone make a pick, including Pryor and Flynn. Who would you pick? Mark Sanchez? Tim Tebow? Ken Stabler? Imagine the season long intrigue with that one!
BRONCOS 29 RAIDERS 3 (11-5)
The Vegas over/under on the Broncos is 11. Can I bet the push? It will be another fun, entertaining season in Denver, but it will end before the Super Bowl. The Broncos season will end in New England in the AFC title game. Wes Welker will share pleasantries with Bill Belichick after the game and then in his best Dino Ciccarelli voice say "I can't believe I shook this guy's friggen' hand. That pisses me right off."